Every year, 26,000 babies are stillborn in America. In 2003, one of them was my son.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Remains

This is what I have of Ben. A small wooden box of ashes.

A box that, at some point in their lives, and more than once, both of my living children have picked up, shaken, and asked me what's inside.

When I don't reply with an answer to their question, they normally say, "Sand?"

And I say, "Yes, something like that."

The other day James asked if we could open it, and I said no. "Why not?" he asked.

I replied, "Because everything inside would spill out."

"But you could put it back in again," he said.

How do you explain that this mysterious little box, so fun to shake and hear the "sand" inside, is what remains of the brother he will never get to know? How do you explain that his parents chose to burn the body of that brother so that, when we move from this place, we could take him with us?

I don't know.

There are so few answers to the questions that remain forever.


Catherine W said...


I don't know how you even begin to explain such a situation. When you put it in the terms that a child would understand, 'your sister died so we burnt her and now we keep her in a box?' it sounds so cruel and strange.

I suppose I can't explain why because I don't fully understand myself. I can't believe it happened still at times.

Monica H said...

I'm not quite sure how I would go about that conversation, because I didn't cremate the boys.

I do know that I would not use the word "burn" in the explanation. I'm not sure if you believe in heaven and angels, but you can always say that he died and that is what is left of him and that it's his special box and can't be opened.

I'm not sure how old your kiddos are, but the boy I nanny (LD) knows about Sam and Jack because he's asked about my necklaces before. I just told him simply, that they died and I wear the heart necklaces to remind me of them. he's 3 and sometimes he'll rub my hearts and ask me which one is Sam and which one is Jack.

I don't talk about the boys to LD, but he brings them up and involves them in conversation. In fact, just the other day, he said that my husband and I were invited to his birthday... "and Sam and Jack can come too".

They know and remember more than we realize.

Monica H said...

I also meant to tell you that I think his box is beautiful.